If you asked our boys which National Park is their favorite, they’d respond with a resounding, “Yellowstone!” But the reality is, that Grand Teton National Park is so linked to Yellowstone, that we don’t even think of it as a separate park. In fact, we tend to see more animals, and fewer people in Grand Teton. We have visited this park 10 times, so we created this Grand Teton National Park Family Guide to help you plan your trip.
Grand Teton National Park
Grand Teton is named for the beautiful mountains that tower above the unique landscape below. The Tetons are young, sharp, and extremely beautiful. Many hikes extend into these mountains, but most are long and steep, so our family generally explores the beautiful ponds and rivers at their feet.
Grand Teton is divided into 5 areas: Flagg Ranch, Colter Bay, Jackson Lake, Jenny Lake, and Moose. We will talk about what to do in each of these areas below. Here is a link to the National Parks map to help you best plan your trip.
We generally stay at Colter Bay or Jenny Lake. We prefer to stay in the cabins, and the Colter Bay cabins are great for sharing. The cabins are built with a shared entrance. This means that two families of four fit comfortably. There is an entryway with a shared bathroom, and each family has its own lockable door. The rooms are simple with two queen beds, electricity, and a few chairs. There are other single cabins as well, and plenty of rooms in the lodges at Jackson or Jenny Lake. For more details on lodging in Grand Teton, visit this webpage on the National Parks site.
Many people enjoy camping in Grand Teton, and all of the campgrounds are on a reservation system, so you can reserve your spot early. There are 7 campgrounds in this National Park, including one with full hook-ups at Colter Bay. Our recommendations are Jenny Lake, Signal Mountain or Colter Bay because these campgrounds are near the lakes. For more information about campgrounds and reservations, visit the National parks site.
Grand Teton National Park has 6 Visitor or Information Centers that will give you access to rangers and information. The Craig Thomas Discovery Center is definitely worth a stop since it is the largest and has the most displays about the park.
- Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center
- Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve Center
- Jenny Lake Visitor Center
- Jenny Lake Ranger Station
- Colter Bay Visitor Center
- Flagg Ranch Information Station
The main reason we love Grand Teton so much is the animals that we commonly see. Moose, beaver, elk, bears, foxes, and buffalo are all pretty easy to see, if you know where to look. In fact, we haven’t seen a moose in Yellowstone in years, but we see several in the Tetons every time we go. Our favorite places to see animals are:
- Oxbow Bend (beaver, moose, birds)
- Schwabacher’s Landing (birds, beavers)
- Moose Wilson Road (moose)
- Teton Road between Colter Bay and Signal Mountain (bears, moose, elk)
- Antelope Flats (bison, antelope)
There are wonderful hikes in Grand Teton National Park. We have collected our favorites in a post called Grand Teton National Park Kid Hikes. We still have plenty of new hikes to complete, too, so we will continue adding to our list as we try some other trails.
Flagg Ranch is technically outside of the Grand Teton Park boundaries, but it is listed as a destination in on park literature, so we are including it here. It is a stop between the Tetons and Yellowstone, and there isn’t a ton to do, but there is a lodge and a great restaurant. We also found one nice trail, so checkout this area:
- Hike the Polecat Creek Loop
- Enjoy a meal at Sheffields Restaurant at Headwaters Lodge (reservations required in 2021)
Colter Bay is our favorite spot to stay because we love the double cabins for sharing with family. There are a lot of great hikes and beautiful spots in the area, too. There are plenty of services including a laundromat and small grocery store. Here are our recommendations for the Colter Bay area:
- Heron Pond & Swan Lake Loop Trail
- Lakeshore Trail
- We always see foxes around Colter Bay, so keep your eyes out!
- Restaurants: Ranch House and Cafe Court Pizzeria (Both of these restaurants have good options for families).
Jackson Lake is the largest lake in the Grand Tetons and there are two locations to stay along this lake including Jackson Lake lodge and Signal Mountain. There are a lot of great animal drives in this area of the park. We definitely see the most animals around Jackson Lake. There are also beautiful views of the mountains. Here are our recommendations for things to do near Jackson Lake:
- Signal Mountain Road
- Pacific Creek Road
- Christian Pond hike
- Oxbow Bend (this is the most important spot and we usually visit multiple times)
- Restaurants: Pioneer Grill and Mural Room (We have eaten at the Pioneer Grill, and it was great for families).
There is a lot to do in the Jenny Lake area. It is definitely a busy area of the park, and we always spend a good chunk of our trip at Jenny Lake. There are great hikes, and this is where we take the shuttle across the lake to one of our favorite trails. Many people get into the water and swim, kayak or paddle board, too. Some of our favorite spots near Jenny Lake are:
- Leigh Lake Trail
- String Lake Trail
- Moose Ponds Trail
- Hidden Falls (shuttle boat ride, fee required)
- Restaurants: The Dining Room at Jenny Lake Lodge (we have never eaten there yet)
Moose is aptly named since we usually see the most moose in this area of the park. There are not a lot of hiking trails near Moose, but all of our favorite drives are in this area. Schwabacher Landing and Moose-Teton are two of our favorite spots. We love Moose-Teton for all the moose we see, and Schwabacher for the beautiful view of the Tetons. Dornan’s is also our favorite restaurant in Grand Teton National Park.
- Moose-Teton Road
- Moose Visitor Center
- Laurence Rockefeller Preserve
- Lake Creek-Woodland Trail
- Antelope Flats
- Gros Ventre Road
- Schwabacher Landing
- Eat at Dornan’s Pizza and Pasta (so good)
Junior Ranger Program
Any time we visit a National Park or State Park, we complete the Junior Ranger program. This program is a great way to learn more about the sites you visit. You can pick up a booklet at any visitor center, and after completing the activities return the booklet to any visitor center. Often you will need to attend a ranger program, so make sure to ask about the schedule of programs while you are visiting Grand Teton National Park.
Grand Teton National Park is a beautiful family destination. We are lucky to live just 5 hours away from this park so we visit often. Here are a few other things that you need to know.
- Most roads and visitor centers shut down in the winter and Spring. This park is best visited from May-September. For current conditions, visit the Grand Teton website.
If you have any questions, please email us at [email protected], and we will help you the best that we can.